JMIH 2014: Relative Contribution of Genetic and Ecological Factors to Morphological Differentiation in Island Populations of Anolis sagrei


Hanna Wegener, a student with Jason Kolbe at the University of Rhode Island (and an Anole Annals contributor), presented a poster at JMIH on her efforts to identify the factors that drive morphological differentiation among Anolis sagrei populations found on 16 Bahamian islands near Staniel Cay. Hanna investigated morphometric, ecological, genetic, and demographic variation among these populations and, unlike many previous studies, considered variation in both males and females. Although Hanna did find significant morphometric variation among islands and between sexes, she did not find the significant correlation between morphometric variation and habitat use reported in prior work. She also did not find a significant relationship between morphometric and genetic variation.  She did, however, find that population density influences morphometric variation, with lizards living at higher population densities having significantly longer heads than those found on lower density islands. Because these lizards on densely populated islands are also more likely to exhibit evidence of injury from other anoles (e.g., loss of limbs, digits, or claws), it is possible that their longer heads may indicate a response to intra-specific competitive interactions. However,  interpretation of these results remains complicated because there is not a direct connection between injury and intra-specific competition, and the lizards on densely populated islands had longer heads, but not the wider heads that would have been expected if the goal of their morphometric shift was to increase bite force. Hanna undoubtedly has many more exciting questions to investigate with her ongoing research.

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